Cheerleader hunter in Houston
HOUSTON - A Texas Tech cheerleader who garnered national attention, and criticism, over her big game hunting photos from Africa made her first public appearance since the controversy in Houston on Saturday.
Holding babies instead of big game, Kendall Jones showed off a different side to fans at the Texas Trophy Hunters Association Hunting Extravaganza at NRG Park. Everyone walking by seemed to know her face.
"I was thinking that that was the girl that was on Facebook that had shot all those big animals," said one attendee, Toni LaGrone.
The photos made the rounds back in June, when the 19-year old Texas Tech cheerleader went hunting in Africa, shooting exotic animals, and a TV show she hopes to debut next year.
While she's being groomed for the spotlight, Kendall is not giving any media interviews. Her dad talked about the whirlwind past weeks.
"It's been good and bad for her," said Kendall's father Cody Jones. "She's had a lot of negative, she's had death threats, a lot of negative publicity, but with that she's gained a ton of supporters, as you can see here at this show."
Many of the people who lined up to see Kendall Saturday were young girls and her crew says that's the point.
"Promoting it in youth and women that's the big thing," said Cody Jones.
"I like that she was a good hunter and that everybody knows that she's a hunter," said 12-year-old Anjelina Campos.
Fourteen-year-old Brice McPhee added, "I think that girls are starting to build up and take over."
But the photos of Kendall smiling next to her kills sparked outrage among animal rights activists. Facebook eventually took them down, and PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement: "Her only interest is in slaughtering wildlife for a cheap thrill," and that "Claiming that hunting somehow helps animal populations is as ridiculous as saying that killing people is a solution to world hunger."
"People don't realize that conservation and hunting go hand in hand," said Cody, who argues fees from legal hunters pay to stop poachers and help with wildlife conservation. "There's never been an animal to go extinct because of hunters. There have been animals go extinct because of poaching, but poaching is illegal."
Jones says all their kills are permitted and the meat is donated to local villages, and as for the threats against his daughter, he said, "[They are] very descriptive death threats at that and it's sad that people are that way and they don't understand. It has kicked up my awareness and hers too, she's paying more attention to her surroundings, but I'm pretty confident she can take care of herself, so I'm not too worried about it."